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Only eight days after the (terrorist) mass murders in Christchurch, punters voting for the glorious state parliament of New South Wales have elected three Shooters, Fishers & Farmers Party members in the lower house. 

The three seats comprise the western half of the state, which roughly equals the size of Germany (albeit with a somewhat smaller population), and are their first in the Legislative Assembly. 

How can country punters have the murderous event still fresh in their minds and vote for a political party referred to as Shooters, its original name? If they are the answer we are asking the wrong question.

Yeah, the discredited Nationals (ex-Country Party), are on the nose in the bush, but come on folks, what about the vibe? How can the Electoral Commission even allow a political party name to be registered these days as Shooters – a world first.

The three seats of Barwon, Murray and Orange encompass the disappearing Murray-Darling river system, which is literally that country’s lifeblood – the scene of massive fish die-offs and corrupt water mismanagement overseen by the Coalition’s junior partner. 

The Greens clamoured for decades to protect those vital rivers, and scored dismally in the same electorates. Country voters know that Greens are watermelons (green on the outside, red inside), evil socialists, the devil incarnate, etc., and so they viscerally reject a party defending their own environmental interests.

The new parliament will have three Shooters members and three Greens members.

Say no more.

Meantime the NZ government is now scrambling to finally fix up its slack gun laws. Not surprising that a NSW-grown terrorist murderer moved to New Zealand a couple of years ago: after wandering the globe building up his so-called manifesto, he then easily put together an arsenal of semi-automatic weapons.

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Recently in Hawaii your eagle-eyed correspondent discovered on a wall in a humble abode this ironic (iconic?) reference to a famous all-male supper, which may have taken place on 01 April many years ago. That’s what we call juxtaposition!

Hawaiian last supper

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Peter Carey conjures up a racy ethos and mood in early 1950s suburban Melbourne in his recent novel ‘A Long Way From Home’, featuring his birth-place Bacchus Marsh, and a car rally that captivated the nation. 

Reminiscent of ‘Oscar and Lucinda’, Carey charges full speed into this story, with characters, ideas and narratives bouncing off each other, until it settles down to a manageable rhythm. Probably an apt metaphor as the real hero of the story is the amazing Redex Round Australia Reliability Trial of 1954 (second of three). 

Among the larger-than-life central characters he even manages to invent a blond, German background, part aboriginal man, and reflects on our inglorious 20th century indigenous history.

Regular KC readers might recall my father John (Jack) in Berlin 36 Redux. Well, he’s also in the background of this story, as he competed in this 15,400 kms trial, driving a Chevrolet (car 36) for Christey’s Motor Auctions. Only 120 out of 263 entrants managed to finish the punishing event, with points lost for late arrivals and replaced parts. Dad’s car finished 97th.

His mate, legendary Jack ‘Gelignite’ Murray won in a Ford V8, incredibly with no points lost, and Carey draws on his character. My childhood memories include calling in to Murray’s Bondi garage with my father for a chin wag with Jack later on.

If you want to know more about him, get ‘Gelignite Jack Murray, An Aussie Larrikin Legend’ by his son Phil Murray – it’s not literature, but lots of photos and cars, and O’Hara too.

The Christey’s crew learned a few tricks, as in 1955 they entered the Trial again, with a longer 16,900 kms route round the country: their Ford Customline (car 76) came a very creditable 20th out of 54 finishers and 276 starters! 

I reckon Carey captures the hardships of the Trial and devil-may-care attitude of the self-reliant bunch of individuals who threw themselves into this ‘adventure of a lifetime’ – overall, a rollicking good read, as the cliche goes. Highly recommended.

1954 redex 1

1954 redex 2

1954 redex 3

 

 

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A best seller by Israeli historian Yuval Harari, which has sold 10 million copies, been translated into 50 languages, it’s unequivocally a must-read. Written in plain, unadorned English (translated from Hebrew, so presumably like the original edition), it traces human evolution from the earliest skirmishes with our Neanderthal cousins down through the ages, to finish with the meaning of life!

If you join the fan club you won’t be disappointed, as he simply explains, or explains simply, the overall arrangements in our shared world – particularly through the powerful interaction of evolutionary biology and the multitude of cultures and associated artefacts that we sapiens have created. 

We developed speech to start gossiping, says Yuval, more or less, and it’s what we fundamentally like doing best and most. As an unalloyed atheist, I particularly liked his confirmation of my long-held explanation of religious belief as a manifestation of our innate ability for myth creation and story-telling over the millennia. 

You’ll have to read it to discover the meaning of life, as I ain’t telling you here. 

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So, the ‘iconic’ (obligatory adjective) Sydney Opera House is our biggest billboard, so sayeth PM Scott Morrison aka ScoMo, endorsing NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s approval of advertising on the famous roof sails of this UNESCO Heritage-listed building, to promote a horse-racing event. 

It’s a quintessential Sydney story, where Shock Jock Supremo Jones pulls the strings on Our Gladys, and we then learn that his business partners have nags running in the race – a redolent whiff of his ‘cash for comment’ era. 

I’m not sure that’s what UNESCO had in mind, but maybe it’s the epitome of OzCulture for crass gambling promotion to prevail over aesthetic considerations in a display of rampant philistinism (a word to put back into common usage). To cap it off, ingenuous ScoMo doesn’t get what all the fuss is about. I believe him.

The Pentecostal PM evinces a daggy soccer dad image, and as self-styled marketing guru who in a previous gig at the Australian Tourist Commission oversaw the cringeworthy ‘where the bloody hell are you’ advertising campaign, he has a track record as Chief Philistine. And is Our Glad channelling Edna Everage?

The horse racing event is called The Everest, so how the image of that word on the Opera House will promote tourism here is a mystery only explained by bluster and bullshit. And make no mistake, the Sport of Kings is for gambling, and certainly not for the benefit of exercising the poor nags and jockeys.

Cultural cringe at being Australian is the only response to this travesty, at least amongst us elitists, but it’s not a comfortable feeling. Optimists thought we had left fundamental philistinism behind us in the maligned 1950s, but it’s in our DNA!

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Despite colonial Van Demonian (oh yeah!) attempts to exterminate its aborigines in the 1820-30s, it seems that the extant Tasmanian aboriginal population is growing abnormally well. In the latest census Tassie’s resident population comprises 5.5% Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders, compared to 3.3% nationally.

The data collection is through self-identification, with the latest figure up from 4.7% in the previous census, which prompts speculation. Perhaps ‘stolen generation’ cultural renewal is encouraging people to reclaim their previously suppressed aboriginal heritage. Maybe more aboriginal people are moving across Bass Strait, and/or ‘natural increase’ is occurring?

Aboriginal Land Council estimates around 20,000 aborigines in Tasmania, so Chairman Michael Mansell reckons the census figure of 28,537 is too high. Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre CEO Heather Sculthorpe says aboriginal numbers were reduced to a few hundred after the Black Wars and could not have grown through natural increase and immigration (from the mainland) to be the highest proportion in Australia.

So, something is going on in Tasmanian minds when they increasingly self-identify as aboriginal. Mansell says that some might be ‘mistaken’ and others ‘opportunistic’. But I reckon it’s much more positive than that: perhaps being aboriginal is the new cool, hip trend and Tasmanians are at the pioneering cutting edge, out on the fringe, so to speak.  Dare I say, the new black?

Imagine if more of us claim aboriginal heritage and we go way past apologies and reconciliation into a new nirvana of collective pride in our ancient land’s earliest culture. We latecomers could then be assigned honorary belonging to ‘country’ somewhere, maybe learn some local language and take care of that country?

* Thanks to Anne Mather (The Mercury, 09 Sept 2018) for her report and interviews, which prompted this reflection. Inflection?

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Vale Miss Breville!

Today is sad, as my humble and loyal hairdresser has passed away. She had trimmed my golden locks every coupla weeks for the last eighteen years, without stress or fuss. No appointment at her salon, just walk right in and take a seat. And no annoying prattle about the weather, shopping trends or her late husbands…..just the sound of her motor!

Yes, Ms Breville (Maxum model) was purchased in the year 2000 A.D., probably from a purveyor of household-electricals, B Lee or H Norman – the memory has faded and the receipt is long gone. Ms B was a basic hair clipper with cutting attachments, comb and scissors, all neatly packed in her zip bag, and wire & plug (no batteries).

She had just completed my usual no.1 cut, tidying up scruffy body hair, when she gave a few short coughs (and stop/starts), which had never happened before. So I took off the cutting blades, cleaned her head and switched her back on, but she coughed again and then stopped (accompanied by a burning smell). For good, meaning eternally – she had passed on, karked it.

Just as modestly as she had taken care of my hirsute noggin all these years, without complaint, she had finished her last assignment to the last hair before taking her last breath! What an inspiration, a lifetime of selfless service, of truly Anzackian dimensions. 

Although of agnostic persuasion Ms B’s spirit will no doubt be recycled as her body is laid to rest on council E-waste day coming up soon.

Vale Ms B, dear Maxum, old friend, may your recycled bits be of service to another lucky human bean in your reincarnated new life. Bless you!

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